PCT Washington – Stehekin

Stehekin to Stevens Pass We met a collection of hikers at the lovely tourist town of Stehekin. Some had come north from California like us whilst others were south bounders and had just started on their long PCT journey. One of whom was William Emerson or Marathon Man who was travelling ultra light and intended to hike the trail in a fast time- we liked his sunshade. We arrived by taking a bus ride in from the PCT trail road crossing a few miles away. The bus dropped us right at the bakery- which was a good start to our stay and great fresh food.

I bought some ‘super gloop’ to repair my boot soles and I would have to make the repair last until our next stop at Stevens Pass in 100 miles. A combination of ‘gloop’ and duck tape didn’t look too pretty but would have to do. Stehekin is a tiny lakeside cluster of houses in a picturesque spot reached by boat from the town of Chelan to the east. We camped at a free site on a patch of grass next to the laundry and showers and went for a buffet $6.95 ‘veggie’ buffet dinner at the quayside lodge. That evening we attended a ranger talk on the stars and we lay on our sleeping mats gazing upwards – great!

Next day we were off early to get the 8.15am bus on 21st June back to the trailhead with six other hikers. We hiked with Brian Sweet and Walter joined us (his wife, Pat(?) had decided to avoid this section and was travelling to Stevens Pass by bus) as we headed up the bubbling Agnes Creek in sunshine. Its not long before we climbed onto snow again though and we stopped for shelter during some heavy hail and thunderstorms which eventually forced us to camp below Suiattle Pass at 7.15pm.

It was a clear night and we were awake at 6am to see the sun hit the snowfields around us. Walter told us he was going back to Stehekin so the remaining 3 of us headed on up the snow slope to Suiattle pass and some grand views of jagged peaks. After a bit of hunting we located the path descending 3000 feet into Miners Creek and the Suiattle River and we stopped here to dry out our gear and warm up. Above us Glacier Peak blocked the way south and we needed to traverse round the mountain anticlockwise over many big ups and downs. We ascended 58 zigzags via Visa Peak upwards in humid drizzly weather, hitting snow at about 5,300 feet and into a huge snow bowl.

Marathon Man was waiting here and we joined up with dramatic bubbling clouds on the horizon. A descent down steep snow on the other side caused some problems- Martina, wearing only shorts, bum slid down the slope after Brian, and succeeded in burning one cheek of her bottom which we tried to patch up later with dressings. Our 20 miles that day included lots of snow and we were glad to camp on dry ground down at Milky Creek.

It rained the next morning on 23rd June as we departed at 7.30am steeply up through snow covered hillside with swirling thick cloud all around. Mica Lake was completely frozen with some lovely turquoise colours and we pumped drinking water in this wintry scene. Our surroundings were now completely white as we climbed up in mist to our next saddle- a good navigation exercise but this was beginning to feel like winter mountaineering! As we descended we had another fright as Brian Sweet tumbled out of control down a snow slope just stopping before some felled trees- he was shaken but unhurt and quite lucky after a 150 feet fall.

Mica Lake

The day continued in the same style- close scrutiny of the maps, compass, examining dimples in the snow for the sign of previous footprints, markings in the trees for evidence of path work – all accompanied with low cloud and rain. We set up a damp tent that night after a long day.

Next day followed in the same vein- a long journey of exhausting trudging through wet snow, losing and finding the path, round sides of hills, aiming for saddles, seeing paths, losing paths, seeing footsteps, not believing them, spreading out to search for the trail… Martina seemed particularly tired that day not helped I think by the dreary weather and conditions. We met Marathon Man again at the end of the day as we must have overtaken him in the mist- it felt good that we were travelling faster than him with his ultra light style and 4.30am starts and that gave us heart that the 3 of us were working well as a team over the difficult terrain. We came to a surprise at Cady Pass where we caught up with a group of 6 hikers- looking similarly tired and wet as ourselves and we hiked on to Pass Creek and camped there.

Meeting Marathon Man

25th June was an epic day. We camped on snow and it rained continually overnight, everything was damp or wet, my inflatable sleeping mat had developed a huge bubble which made it difficult to lie on, the stove was spluttering badly, and a front zip on the tent had failed. Our walk started into the gloomy slushy snow and straight away we were using map and compass contouring round to the left of a pass but rose too quickly to a saddle. Once up there we realised we had reached the wrong feature and retraced our steps before hearing voices. It was the 6 hikers from yesterday plus another- Kevin O’Leary- who we joined up with to descend snow. Later we all teamed up as a loose group of 11 hikers sharing the navigational load. At Wenatchee Pass myself Martina, Brian Sweet and Kevin stopped for lunch and after some cleaning we got the stove going for some welcome hot tea in the rain.

The rest were ahead and we climbed up into snow following their footprints up valley. However after an hour or so we realised that we should rise up right to a ridge and the footsteps were going in the wrong direction. We followed our instincts and thankfully find the correct route after 15 minutes. After reaching a snowy meadow, we lost the way again and only succeed in finding the trail after 1.5 hours searching- eventually locating the trail a mile further on- the key to the door.

That evening we headed on to camp at Lake Janus which was beautifully dry and free of snow- so pleased are we to see it that Martina and I jogged down to it at 8pm after another hard day. It is now only 9.5 miles to Stevens Pass, our next resupply and we were optimistic at a low height of 4,300 feet with little snow that we could make it tomorrow.

Again, the next morning was misty and drizzling- would it ever stop! We had a good dry night anyway but Martina was sick and had had diarrhoea for the last week. Around 12.30 we made Stevens Pass road in the rain and managed to hitch down to the east to the tourist town of Leavenworth….

Next Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie

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